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49th parallel north
The 49th parallel of north latitude forms part of the international boundary between Canada and the United States from Manitoba to British Columbia on the Canadian side and from Minnesota to Washington on the U.S. side. Its use as a border is a result of the Anglo-American Convention of 1818 and the Oregon Treaty of 1846.
After the United States acquired the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, it was generally agreed that the boundary between it and British Rupert's Land was along the watershed between the Missouri River and Mississippi River basins on one side and the Hudson Bay basin on the other. However, it is difficult to precisely determine the location of a watershed in a region of level plains, such as in central North America. The British and American committees that met after the War of 1812 to resolve boundary disputes recognized there would be much animosity in surveying the watershed boundary, and agreed on a simpler solution in 1818: the 49th parallel. Both sides gained and lost some territory by this convention, but the United States gained more than it lost, in particular securing title to the Red River Basin. This convention established the boundary only between the Lake of the Woods and the Rocky Mountains; west of the Rockies, the convention established joint occupation of the Oregon Country by both parties. A geographical oversight resulted in the creation of the Northwest Angle.
Although the Convention of 1818 settled the boundary from the point of view of the non-Aboriginal powers, neither the United Kingdom nor the United States was immediately sovereign over the territories on its side of the line: effective control still rested with the local nations, mainly the Métis, Assiniboine, Lakota and Blackfoot. Their sovereignty was gradually ceded by conquest and treaty during the several decades that followed.
In 1844, part of James K. Polk's platform in his presidential run was that the northern border of the Oregon Territory should be 54°40′; he even had a campaign slogan of "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight". However, with the Mexican-American war starting in 1846, the military was needed elsewhere and this goal was not achieved.
In 1846 the Oregon Treaty divided the Oregon Country between British North America and the United States by extending the 49th parallel boundary to the west coast, ending at the Strait of Georgia; it then circumvents Vancouver Island through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This had the side-effect of isolating Point Roberts, Washington.
Although parts of Vancouver Island and much of Eastern Canada are located below the 49th parallel, and parts of the United States (Alaska, Northwest Angle) are located above it, the term 49th parallel is sometimes used as a nickname for the entire Canada-U.S. border. This can be misleading, since most of Canada's most populated regions are well below the 49th parallel, including the two largest cities Toronto (44°N) and Montreal (46°N) and the capital Ottawa (45°N) - not to mention all of southern Ontario, southern Quebec, and the three of the four maritime provinces.
Monuments on the Border
- Canada-U.S. Border
- Northwest Angle
- Point Roberts, Washington
- Fifty-Four Forty or Fight
- Pig War
- Hymns of the 49th Parallel
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